You only have youthful enthusiasm once in your life. Countless young bands in the history of rock have shopped their demo around looking for someone to share their passion for their sound. That’s before the ones that survive either get in a rut or end up deciding that they had to write for other people’s tastes all these years and now everyone can fuck off because they’re gonna play what they want.
This week I snatched a pair of albums from two young bands, and it was interesting to see their similarities despite different sounds. Doesn’t make sense? Well I’m talking about their attitude, their desire to find themselves, try new things, and to search out what people think. They have enough ego to want to be liked, but having no singers they have no one who thinks the universe revolves around them.
So on to the subject of this review – Melbourne band Kettlespider. Let’s call it metal instrumental rock for the sake of giving you some idea of the sound. There are two main tests I apply to a new record like this – do I get bored or fall asleep listening to it (the answer should be NO) – and can I play at least a good amount of air drums and air guitar to it and does it make me stand up at least in parts (the answers should be YES). I’m pleased to say that the answers are No and Yes and in the correct order.
Kettlespider explore a diverse range of sounds and while I like a blend of repetition and variety, there’s always a risk that too many disparate elements it can take away the identity of a song or record. In this case I think they get the balance pretty much right over the 33 minutes the record runs. They describe it as “heavy, melodic and progressive” and to a large degree that’s right, but there is heavier progressive stuff around – Ne Obliviscaris for example, another Melbourne band. In fact I had to do something I rarely do and turned up the bass on my stereo a notch to fully enjoy the record. No big deal and for a self-produced record the sound is very impressive.
So while not overly heavy the sound is very full and layered. Good use is made of dynamics and there are some great crescendos, without being overly long and drawn out.
Another thing I like about what they’ve done is to set out to make a concept album:
“A patient in a critical comatose condition explores the paths of heaven, hell and a mysterious healing ground known as “Avadante”, within an atypical series of impossible dreams. His experiences within the otherworldy “Avadante” guide him; as he seeks atonement and redemption for a misguided life of sin on earth.”
I think it actually tells the story quite well but let’s face it, given there are no lyrics, it can tell the listener whatever the listener wants. What’s important is that the record flows so damn well. Each song sits so well with the next while still sounding different enough to be another chapter.
The first two songs are full of hooks and arpeggios, sometimes repeated and others kept brief and variable. There’s some nice chugging and some tasty riffage before the whole thing gets pulled right back for “Comatose”, a six-minute track that starts relaxed and becomes more so as things progress until some beautiful piano in the closing couple of minutes. This is another high risk area in a metal record – you don’t want a Spinal Tap “Lick My Love Pump” moment and you don’t get it here.
There’s some more playing around with arpeggios and timing in the next couple of tracks with neat organ work toward the end of “Revelations”, although the song lacks something that I can’t put my finger on. A short joiner follows before the closing track “Reflections”; a wonderful proggy, melodic, rambling track of just under nine minutes ending with a bit of Aussie birdsong and a couple of deep breaths as our hero wakes from his adventure.
I first saw these guys play a few months ago and they sounded more EITS than Isis, but it looks like they’ve been putting in some good writing sessions and practice and hardened up while retaining the nuances and dynamics that some of the heavier post-metal bands lack. I’m not going to call it a brilliant record but its consistency, ambition, self-awareness and good ideas makes me feel that with experience and confidence Kettlespider can make quite impression over the coming years. Keep up the good work.